Downsizing Considerations

Rightsizing vs. Downsizing

The terms rightsizing and downsizing are often used interchangeably when discussing the transition to a new living situation. However, there are subtle differences between the two terms that need to be understood before making an informed decision about which approach aligns best with your lifestyle objectives.

Rightsizing:  The Perfect Fit

Rightsizing focuses on aligning your living space with your current lifestyle, needs, and goals. Rather than an emphasis on reducing the physical size of your home, rightsizing involves evaluating your living situation for such factors as location, accessibility, functionality, and overall quality of life.

Lifestyle assessment – rightsizing starts with an assessment of your lifestyle requirements and preferences. For example, how much maintenance do you want to perform on a home – be it repairs or lawn care?  How close to you want to be to amenities such as fitness, dining, and shopping? Are you still working and do you need access to public transportation? Finally, what kind of social activities do you prefer and do you want to live near a big city or move to an area built around a particular activity or service, such as a golf community?

Lifestyle priorities – Rightsizing prioritizes and customizes those aspects of your current lifestyle that bring you joy and fulfillment. This could mean downsizing certain areas to reallocate resources to enjoy other aspects of your life such as hobbies, travel or a physical activity.

Emotional considerations – with any move there is emotional attachment to the place and/or belongings that reside in the home. Rightsizing encourages a thoughtful appraisal of what to keep and what to let go of for a simpler lifestyle that prioritizes your well-being

Downsizing – Simplify and Streamlining

As its name suggests, downsizing refers specifically to reducing the physical size of your living space. It involves decluttering, getting rid of possessions and typically moving to a smaller home. Downsizing is sometimes synonymous with retirement and the need to decrease home maintenance, expenses, and or the desire for a more manageable living arrangement.

Key aspects of downsizing include:

Space reduction – moving to a smaller residence, be it a house, condo, apartment or even retirement community. The primary objective is to reduce the physical footprint and associated costs.

Decluttering – downsizing usually starts with a thorough decluttering process to eliminate excess belongings and create a more streamlined living space.  It involves not only reviewing possessions to determine which will fit in the new space but also prioritizing those that are keepsakes and worth moving.

Financial considerations – downsizing is frequently driven by financial benefits, such as a lower mortgage or taxes, as well as reduced utility costs and the freeing up of equity from the sale of a larger property. This financial freedom can offer greater flexibility and opportunities to explore different lifestyle options.

Simplification – the essence of downsizing lies in simplifying your life – whether this is shedding possessions or reducing maintenance or all of the above in the interest of focusing on what really matters.

Which Approach is Best for You?

Whether you are rightsizing or downsizing depends upon your unique circumstances and vision for the future. Some considerations:

  • Lifestyle goals – prioritize which activities and experiences are key to your well-being
  • Financial objectives – evaluate your financial situation and consider how rightsizing or downsizing may impact your financial goals and aspirations. In some cases, rightsizing can result in a higher mortgage and fees, depending upon location and amenities
  • Flexibility vs. simplicity – determine whether you value the flexibility and potential for customization that rightsizing offers or if you require the simplicity and cost savings of downsizing.

Both rightsizing and downsizing can lead to a more fulfilling and relaxing quality of life. The key is to assess your needs and preferences first before making such an important decision.

Does Downsizing My Home Make Financial Sense?

Downsizing your home can be a significant financial and emotional decision that offers both advantages and drawbacks. Here’s a quick look at some different scenarios:

When Downsizing Makes Sense

Retirement – as you move closer to retirement, downsizing to a smaller, more affordable property can result in lower mortgage and reduced utility and tax bills. This increased cash flow can free up funds for other investments as well as allow you to enjoy your retirement without financial stress.

Empty Nest – when children leave home, you may find your current property and associated upkeep too much for your current needs. Downsizing to a smaller, more manageable home can reduce maintenance as smaller homes generally have fewer big ticket repair expenses.  This shift can provide a home more suited to your current stage in life as well as help you avoid the unexpected financial burdens associated with large-scale home repairs such as a roof, furnace, or electrical issue.

Home equity – if you purchased your home some years ago you’ve probably seen appreciation, especially in more desirable areas but it’s not accessible in that you can’t draw from it it to buy your weekly groceries or pay bills. Tapping this equity and increasing your liquid assets can improve your overall financial situation, allowing you to boost retirement savings, pay off debts, or even pursue new investment opportunities

When Downsizing May Not be Suitable

Transaction costs – moving to a new home incurs expenses, such as real estate agent fees, legal fees, and moving costs. If you purchased your existing home recently and/or don’t have much equity in the home, the costs of moving may exceed any financial benefits. In fact, some experts estimate that if downsizing doesn’t reduce your home expenses by at least 25 percent, it isn’t worth the bother. 

Emotional costs – downsizing can be emotionally challenging, especially if you’ve lived in your home for a long time. Downsizing also means living with less space which might require adjustments to your lifestyle and storage capabilities even if your kids have left for good. And, if you’re moving further away from kids, friends, and grandchildren, you may now need to purchase a lot of plane tickets.

Potential market fluctuations – real estate markets can be unpredictable and selling your current home during a downturn may result in lower returns. It’s crucial to assess the local housing market conditions before deciding to downsize. 

If you’re living mortgage-free. If your monthly housing costs are low already and it’s just a matter of needing more income, there are less dramatic options to selling and moving. You might be able to rent out a room or make a garage or basement into an income-producing studio rental. You may also be able to list all or part of it on vacation rental site and generate income that way without having to create a permanent rental situation.

Deciding whether to downsize your home is a complex financial decision that requires careful consideration of your current and future needs. We always recommend consulting with a financial advisor as well as a real estate professional before making any significant changes.


The Best Tips for Getting Rid of Stuff When Downsizing

Downsizing to a smaller home can be a liberating experience, but it can also be emotional to let go of belongings that no longer fit or serve a purpose in your new space. Here are eight practical tips to simplify the process.

  • Start early. Begin the decluttering process well in advance of your move to give yourself the time you need to thoughtfully sort through your possessions.
  • Create a sorting system. Make piles using categories such as “Keep,” “Donate,” “Sell,” and “Trash.” If you have a lot of different items, it may help to create a spreadsheet to track your progress, especially for items in the first few categories. Part of this process involves identifying items that will serve a practical purpose in your new home as well as those items that hold sentimental value, so you can more easily prioritize what to keep and what to lose.
  • Go room-by-room to take an initial inventory. Tackle one room at a time so you won’t feel overwhelmed. Decluttering experts also advise starting with smaller or less used rooms first and working up to shared family spaces and bedrooms as these rooms will have more sentimental items and require more time and emotion.
  • Parting with sentimental items. It can be challenging to part with sentimental belongings that you don’t use or won’t fit in your new home. Taking photographs or creating digital copies of these items before donating or selling them can help you preserve the memories and make it easier to part with them.
  • Digitize.  Reduce the number of paper documents by scanning critical files and storing them digitally rather than in bulky file folders that take up space. The same goes for piles of old scrapbooks and photos that may be subject to discoloration and could be ruined forever by exposure to the air and ravages of time. Digitizing precious photos not only allows you to categorize them but also to make backups so you never need to worry about losing them. This practice not only saves space but makes it easier to locate critical documents and photos when needed. 
  • Get rid of duplicates. As they start packing, many families find they have duplicate items, such as kitchen utensils, glassware, or appliances. Keep only the ones you regularly use. This is also a good time to get rid of “singles” or mismatched glassware that take up space.
  • Take advantage of donation options. There are a number of charitable organizations today that are willing to pick-up used furniture and clothing and repurpose it for families in need. You get a charitable donation tax credit as well as helping others.
  • Recycle and dispose sustainably. If you have items that are beyond repair, don’t try to donate them. There are a number of nonprofits and local communities that will pick-up or make it easy to dispose of electronics such as old phones, computers, and rechargeable batteries and ensure they don’t go in a landfill. Staples and Best Buy also accept a wide range of electronic items for free recycling every day for all brands with no purchase required.

Nobody Wants My Stuff

“Nobody wants my stuff” has become a familiar refrain as many boomers downsize and face the challenge of disposing of the furniture and decor they’ve enjoyed for the last 20-30 years.

Today’s “unwanted stuff” includes everything from framed artwork to oversize furniture to oriental rugs. Millennials and Gen Z increasingly prefer a minimalist lifestyle and family heirlooms such as fine China and silver that require hand-washing and polishing are deemed too fussy. Similarly, large armoires, sideboards or heavy furniture pieces don’t fit within a clean design aesthetic. Even pianos and pool tables are difficult to sell or even give away because of space constraints.

While parting with 30 years’ worth of memories can be emotionally challenging, the following tips help simplify the process.

  • Seek appraisals – for valuable antiques or collectibles, consider getting professional appraisals to determine their market worth. This information can guide your decision-making process and help you decide whether selling, donating or pass them on to family members is the best option
  • Determine costs of relocation – if you’re attached to large pieces, do some due diligence on the logistics and cost associated with moving and transporting large items. Assuming it’s not a family heirloom, for example, the costs to move and store a piano may be more than purchasing a new one outright in your new location
  • Explore selling options – online market places, consignment stores, estate sales or specialized antique dealers can help you find interested buyers. Many larger pieces, such as bedroom sets, or living room furniture, for example, get better prices when sold as a set from a staged retail environment. And, experts at estate sale companies have access to a wide network of potential buyers and can assist with pricing and marketing your items.
  • Consider auction houses – auctions attract serious buyers and many auction houses specialize in fine furniture, antiques, or collectibles. The competitive bidding environment can help you get the best prices for your treasures.
  • Reframe artwork – artwork can often be revitalized with new, contemporary frames or “floating” presentations rather than the heavy gold frames and glass that characterized art in the last few decades.
  • Repurpose or upcycle – consider transforming large furniture pieces into functional pieces such as converting an old dresser into a TV stand or repurposing antique doors into wall décor. Wedding dresses that consume a lot of space when preserved in large boxes can be repurposed as christening gowns or even bridal bags and lingerie.
  • Donate to charities – church groups, charities and community centers in need of furniture are all possible takers who might welcome place settings of china as well as wall decor. Also check with local schools, music programs, or recreational centers for pianos, pool tables, or large furniture donations.

While letting go of stuff can be an emotional process, celebrating the memories of these pieces while finding them new lives can make the downsizing journey both freeing and rewarding.

Hosting in Downsized Space

Hosting Family and Friends When You’ve Downsized

Downsizing to a smaller living space doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the joy of hosting family and friends. If downsizing has left you struggling with how to comfortably host guests, consider some of the following options for creating a welcoming environment for your loved ones:

Create functional spaces – make the most of your available space by creating functional areas that can be easily adapted for hosting. Rearrange furniture, set up folding tables, or utilize multipurpose furniture to maximize seating and create dedicated gathering areas.

Flexible seating options – along these same lines, opt for flexible seating options such as folding chairs, ottomans or floor cushions that can be easily stored or tucked away when not in use. These versatile seating solutions can provide additional seats without cluttering your space.

Utilize sleep sofas – they’ve come a long way since the rigid structures that were dominated by an uncomfortable bar. They also no longer need a lot of floor space – companies such as American Leather, for example, boast sleeper models with king-size mattresses that that are less than 7 feet long and 37 inches deep with queen-size models that are only 63 inches long. Best of all, American Leather and other manufacturers construct these pieces in a modular manner so you can squeeze them through small doorways. Some small-scale sectionals now offer a sleeper section as well.

Make creative use of beds – if you have a guest room, consider installing bunk beds, a time-honored solution for accommodating children and grandchildren. If there’s room for a twin bed in the room, there’s room for a bunk bed. Trundle beds that store under a twin bed are another option – just be aware of how they fit with nightstands and dressers when they’re fully pulled out. If your budget allows, wall beds or Murphy beds are another possibility that close up neatly to the wall when not in use. They can be easily added to just about any room’s shelving or built-ins and come in a wide choice of woods, stains, and paints.

Leverage outdoor extensions – if you have access to an outdoor area, utilize it as an extension of your living space. Set up cozy seating arrangements, add twinkling lights and create an inviting atmosphere for your guests to enjoy.  If you’re in a warmer climate, patios and lanais make it easy to dine al fresco as well.

Optimize dining space – if your home doesn’t have a formal dining area, consider setting up buffet-style meals with a mix of seated and standing options. Choose menu items that are easy to prepare and eat in smaller spaces. Finger foods, small plates and buffets all encourage mingling and create a relaxed environment while serving as practical choices.

Declutter – clear countertops, remove unnecessary items (such as little-used appliances) and look for efficient storage solutions such as baskets and cabinet built-ins to keep your downsized space organized. 

Plan efficient use of kitchen space—if your kitchen is small, plan your menu and prep ahead of time to avoid overcrowding the kitchen during your event or meals. Optimize counter space by utilizing collapsible stackable kitchenware.

While downsizing can create challenges, ultimately hosting is all about creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere.  Downsizing opens up new possibilities for creating intimate and engaging experiences with loved ones while optimizing space and prioritizing quality time.

Aging in Place

Embracing Aging in Place

The concept of “aging in place” is becoming increasingly appealing as the population ages. “Aging in place” refers to the concept of living in one’s own home independently and comfortably as you navigate the later stages of life. With careful planning, thoughtful adaptations and a focus on safety, it’s possible to create a supportive environment and maintain quality of life. Here are some tips for embracing this choice for you or loved ones:

Assess your current living arrangements – by identifying areas that may present challenges as you age. These areas could include stairs, narrow doorways, slippery floors or rugs, or even cabinets and shelves that may be difficult to reach.

Prioritize safety – by checking that you have proper lighting in hallways and stairwells and remove any tripping hazards such as throw rugs or decorative items that may get in the way.

Ensure accessibility – by widening doorways or installing ramps or chairlifts for staircases to ensure that the main living areas are on the ground floor. Creating a physical environment that enhances mobility will reduce the risk of falls.

Modify bathrooms — Bathrooms are particularly challenging for those with limited mobility but modifications such as walk-in showers vs. tubs, strategically located grab bars and non-slip flooring can all make a difference. Placing essential items within reach can also lessen the potential for injuries. 

Make kitchens user-friendly – by installing adjustable-height countertops, pull-out shelves, and lever-handled faucets. Place frequently used items in lower, easy-to-reach cabinets.

Declutter – simplify the living space by decluttering and organizing belongings. Use stackable shelves and organizers to remove and store unnecessary items.

Leverage smart home technology – by embracing the convenience and safety of smart home technology. Incorporate voice-controlled devices, home monitoring systems and automated features that can assist with tasks and provide peace of mind. Signing up for an emergency response system provides additional security in the event of a fall.

Maintain social connections — and an active lifestyle is essential for overall well-being. Create comfortable spaces within the home for entertaining family and friends. Consider joining community groups or senior centers to stay engaged and connected.

Keep up with regular maintenance – by staying on top of ongoing home maintenance to prevent small issues from turning into bigger problems. Maintenance contracts that include regular inspections of electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems will ensure your home remains safe and functional.

Aging in place can offer familiarity, independence and comfort as you or loved ones navigate the later stages of life. By incorporating these tips and considerations, you can create a safe, accessible and supportive living environment for all ages.